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Managing email in today’s digital business world

Email dominates communication in today’s business environment, and many contain vital pieces of information that assist in tracking key events, employee behavior and information exchanges, making it important that SMBs understand and comply with regulations surrounding using email as formal records.

Email has become the lifeblood of small business. More than any other means of communication and any business tool, electronic mail is relied upon by companies for running virtually every aspect of their enterprises. And for many businesses, regardless of their size, the use of email means the use of mailboxes stored on Microsoft Exchange Server.

From simple internal communications to vital sales calls to customers to invoicing and billing and high-level decision-making, email – and Microsoft Exchange Server – is involved at every level of business life. A company could not survive without email in the same way that it could not survive without telephones or electricity. And not only does email make employees and businesses more efficient, but it is also the most cost-effective means of communication as well.

Clearly, businesses are awash in email. And that email needs to be managed for business, regulatory, and legal reasons.

Business requirements are the primary factor driving the need for email management. The main reason for this is that many companies are storing email only on the server. Here at Kroll Ontrack we conducted a survey of 177 email administrators who each managed 250 or more mailboxes and found that 37 percent of companies have email stored only on the server. Because of this, storage space is at a premium and many companies are forced to set mailbox size limits.

Kroll Ontrack discovered that 72 percent of companies have established mailbox quotas and for 25 percent, deleting email is the only remedy for employees when they reach a full quota. These limits force employees into deleting a great deal of email, even email that is vital to their work. Because employees delete email that they may still need, they make a greater number of requests to the IT department to restore their email – and in many cases, that email exists only as a backup.

So while storing mail on the server and setting mailbox size limits may solve the storage management needs of IT, it creates a conflict with the business needs of employees, thereby increasing the frequency of requests for restoring email messages from a backup.

The need to archive and restore email is also driven by regulatory demands as well. A variety of regulations require that email be kept as a normal part of doing business. While the health care industry and the financial services industries are most affected by regulations, other industries are increasingly affected as well.

Email dominates communication in today’s business environment. As a computer-based system, it has made this communication medium into a formal record, often containing vital pieces of information that may assist a company in tracking key events, employee behavior, and information exchanges. As electronically stored information (ESI), email messages can be valid legal documents and are governed by a variety of regulations and statutes requiring email retention. Email messages require secure storage and restoration, and often must be produced in the course of litigation.

In fact, more and more companies, have lost millions of dollars in court because they failed to adequately retain and produce email records when required to do so.

It is imperative that businesses understand and comply with the regulations pertaining to producing email as formal records versus simply restoring email for internal business purposes.

Email recovery can be a difficult and challenging task.  There are many software products that may assist in the recovery and production of email, but not all are compliant with the procedures required for securing email messages as documents worthy of withstanding the tests of trial.

Moving forward, ensure your company has a written policy for data retention and recovery. If your company already has a policy, then a periodic review is necessary to ensure it meets the challenges posed by new mobile devices and electronic mail systems. If your company does not have a written policy, you’re best advised to consult your IT and legal experts to have one drafted and put in place.